Tag Archives: college

Lessons in debate we can learn from dragons

Found at PhotoBucket.

I’ve been playing a lot of the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim lately. The game is set in a medieval world and the plot revolves around the reappearance of dragons after centuries without them. One of the dragon related items I found to be thought provoking is a line about a when a dragon breathes fire.

When a dragon uses a breath attack… it is speaking in an ancient and powerful language. A battle between two dragons is actually a deadly verbal debate.

I had always saw dragons growing up and fierce monsters who breath fire and are just heartless and evil. But this characterization found in Skyrim has the main character able to learn the language of the dragons, and at times hold conversations with them.

I began to think about this some more and had to wonder, how often are we like dragons, spewing fire at the people we argue with?

My mind immediately goes to the Westboro protests and the counter-protests against them. Christians who stand across from courthouses and abortion clinics and shout at the “evil” people on the other side. When a popular fundamentalist pastor makes a certain claim and all the Twitterverse and bloggers get to work about how wrong they are. In our world of entitlement, we often feel the first thing to do when we are wronged is retaliate. Sometimes such as in our current political climate nearing election, we don’t even wait, but just start laying out the ways our opponent has done wrong to make ourselves look better.

Instead of fighting, what if we sought to understand our criticizers view?

I offer two examples, one bad, the other good. The other night I was researching something for a project I’m working on. I found what I was looking for on a website and the information was laid out nicely. Then I decided to explore their site some more and found statements that I didn’t agree with. I immediately thought they were wrong and impossible to work with. I wanted to just be done with them and never think of that site again. But as I thought more of it the next day, I realized that the piece I needed was well explained and I agreed it. Sure, I might not agree with every stance they take, but they at least had something to offer me and that I could find helpful if I hadn’t discounted them right away. I went back to find what I originally came for, because it was helpful and it was common ground to move forward from.

The second example takes place while I was in college. There I was a painting major. I admit I wasn’t that good. In one class critique in particular, a classmate equated what I was doing to that of a kindergartener. The found nothing worthwhile in my paintings. It didn’t get to me. Partially because I think in the back of my mind I knew she was right. I didn’t get defensive, because her work was really well done. It was detailed and intricate. Mine was basically a simple cartoon on a canvas.

But I could have retaliated. Said her painting was too traditional. I was thinking outside the “painter” spectrum. But I knew I wasn’t. It was something I was doing, but not something I was good at. I was able to admit my shortcomings and listen to what she had to say. Others said they enjoyed my painting, while others agreed with her. It turned into a rather civil discussion on why art was or wasn’t good.

That critique is actually the point that I began to love debate and critique. I loved to hear the opposing side. I attended a church my first year of seminary that held a different set of beliefs than I held, because it helped me to know better what I believe. And though I disagreed with them at times, I found some community there in the short time I attended, and found them to be great people. So while opposing ideas might annoy me sometimes, I want to hear them. I just hope we can learn to keep the fire breathing to a minimum when faced with an opponent, and instead seek to hear the other side of the story first and know how our opponents feel when it comes to their beliefs. After all, they believe them just as strongly as we believe ours. Shouldn’t that at least be respected?

Will they want me?

As December draws closer, I have to come to the reality that school is ending, and I have to get a job. One thing besides writing that I keep coming back to is campus ministry. I’ve been in one. I’ve helped out with one. I’ve spoken to a guy who could have potentially gotten me a job in one. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I’ve thought about joining one.

But I don’t know if I could.

One of the big things in my experience with campus ministry was reaching the lost souls on the campus. Going out into the public and teaching people why they need Jesus. And honestly, I’m not good at this. Whether it’s my doubt that I’m actually making a difference, or whether I just don’t care, I can’t find myself wanting to go tell people who believe as strongly about something as I do that they’re wrong and they’ve wasted their life away believing something incorrectly.

I find myself much more caring about those inside the Church than outside. Mainly because I see so much rampant bad theology and biblical illiteracy that I feel someone needs to step in and teach people some good beliefs. So I have to wonder, is there a campus ministry group that would hire me to only work on the inside, rarely stepping foot outside? If so, that would be great, sign me up.

The other problem is from my senior year of high school, to my senior year of undergrad, to my senior year of seminary, my beliefs have shifted so much. Often, I’m not sure I believe what I believe long enough to teach someone else. I also don’t know if I believe it enough to shape someone else’s beliefs to match mine, nor do I think that I should be shaping others beliefs to be uniform to my own. One of the best ways we can learn about our beliefs is to discuss ours with someone else who doesn’t believe that. And if we all believe the same thing, how do we grow in our own beliefs?

It’s something I’m just not sure of. I could see myself working with college students, teaching them, and I hope that there is a group out there that would be willing to let me work through them. Especially if they have their focus as reaching out to lost students, because I would rather make sure that those who are reaching out, are doing so with love and care for the people they’re reaching, not just because their group needs new members. I just hope I don’t have to be the one to do the reaching out as a job requirement.

My falling out with Christian music

As a kid, I grew up with John Mellencamp, the Carpenters, Jim Croce, and Heart playing through our families stereo from time to time. Then around the time I was in middle school my parents became more dedicated Christians and started listening to Christian music instead of what they used to. We still have a lot of the old stuff here and there, but it’s been pretty much retired at this point. When I started getting my own CD’s, I started following the trend of getting Christian music, but didn’t want to get the calm and smooth music, I wanted rock. So I picked up bands like Kutless, Project 86, Superchic[k], and others like that.

Day in and day out, on the school bus my CD player was listening to music from these bands and I would sing them in the shower. I insisted we listen to them when we drove anywhere in the car and compared the latest bands and music with the other kids in my youth group. I never fully listened to 100% Christian music, but the amount of non-Christian material was definitely not as widely listened to.

But then as I entered college, I quickly began to shift sides. I found friends that listened to other artists. It took a couple years for my musical tastes to change, but I was soon listening to the Killers, Barenaked Ladies, Coldplay, the Decemberists, and the Gaslight Anthem. By the time I entered into seminary, I only had a couple Christian artists on my computer and they weren’t listened to except in a spur of the moment, semi-worship setting.

What made me shift my musical perspectives? Christian music is bland. It is a lot of the same. Granted there are some artists within the Christian subculture that actually have some decent depth to their music, but the majority drowns out these exceptional acts. There are too many songs of hope, joy, jove, happiness. Yet how often do we as Christians spend our time within these emotions? Where is the sadness, loss, hopelessness, pain? Have you read the Psalms? Yes there are songs of joy and hope, but there are a lot of songs about pain, loss, and helplessness.

It is is the secular world’s music that I’ve began to find a spirituality that involves these emotions. While I don’t think that Christian music is wrong, there is a place for it. It just screams that we need the full spectrum of human emotion and how it relates to God. Not every Christian song must end with joy and hope, what about the songs that show our weaknesses and depravity. We need to sing our side of the story if we live our side of the story. Sometimes, we just need a new perspective. Because if things are always perfect and happy, why was Jesus needed anyway?